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Friday, November 30, 2007

Don't Ask. Don't Tell. Doesn't Apply in Key West




During Wednesday night's CNN-YouTube Republican Presidential Debate Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr created quite a ruckus. He prefaced his video question by saying: “I’m a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. And I’m a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. And I’m an openly gay man.” Then said: “I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.”

The candidates responded and you can read what they said elsewhere. But his question and the fact that he had not disclosed that he was an adviser to the Hilary Clinton Campaign caused a media stir and lots of finger pointing at CNN for not doing its homework in learning about the general's affiliation with the Clinton Campaign.

Yesterday morning the general was on the CNN's "American Morning" program and John Roberts, the newsman, not the Chief Justice, questioned him about his motivation in asking the question. It was when John Roberts asked the general about his experience as a gay man in the military, the general said “because of the generation in which I grew up, one could not reveal their sexuality.”

I knew exactly what he was saying. Men who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's just were not gay, but had secret sex with other men. Many of them married and had families and lived in denial of their sexual orientation. Those that never married were just "bachelors". Have not heard that term in years...

But in June 1969 there were a series of public disturbances that became known as the Stonewall Riots in New York City when gays stood up against police harassment. And that act of defiance made it possible for so many millions of gay people to later acknowledge that they are in fact gay. And happy.

I added the "And happy" for a reason: the perception was that a gay life was actually a life filled with tragedy. That may have been true before Stonewall, because as the general pointed out that in his generation people could not reveal their sexuality. But 38 1/2 years after Stonewall people all over the world are openly gay to some extent or another. Some places are more receptive to gay people like large cosmopolitan cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris,and Berlin. But gays are in rural areas as well. They are probably just less visible.

Key West is a small town with a cosmopolitan attitude if there ever was one. It is not necessary for a gay man or woman to create any illusion about his or her sexual identity here. If you are a gay man living in Key West you do not have to keep your sexual orientation a secret. The City of Key West has five separate ordinances dealing with non discrimination based on sexual orientation, equality of human rights, discrimination in employment, housing, and AIDs discrimination. So it is okay to be gay in Key West. And beyond Public Policy there is the plain sense of community that we are one family that pervades our little town. I think there are as many straight people with the famous "One Human Family" sticker on their cars or scooters as gays or lesbians.


But in Key West it does not matter. To those of you who are looking to move to some place where it is okay to be gay consider Key West as your possible new home. My only regret about moving to Key West is that it took me so long to get here.

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.